While it’s true that certain politicians, pundits and factions among the citizenry decry and bemoan the current state of television programming – it’s terrible, they claim – there’s also this: MTV recently announced its highest ratings ever for the recent season opening of its so-called reality show “Jersey Shore.” Yes, it’s a disconnect and a conundrum: While many believe TV has become a mind-rotting wasteland and something needs to be done about it, a significant segment of the viewing public can’t seem to get enough of the young, hard-partying Italian-American stereotypes who populate the show.
And after having endured a handful of episodes, I think I know why: It’s like watching a train wreck about to happen; you can see it coming, but you can’t take your eyes off it till the whole event plays out.
That’s what makes “Jersey Shore” such a tempting show to parody: Its cast writes the script for you. And that pretty much describes “Jersey Show Season 1 (Abridged)” that’s taking place Thursday nights at Go Comedy! Improv Theater through Feb.26.
Co-creators Lesley Braden-Phillips and Kathleen Lietz have condensed the series’ first season into a fast-paced romp that highlights many of the events that mesmerized the American public. From the bar fights to the hissy fits and the drinking binges to the one-night stands, they’re all here – but with a purposely comedic twist.
Some of that comedy, however, got lost from the page to the stage.
Given the wealth of material from which they had to draw, Braden-Phillips and Lietz packed their script with plenty of opportunities to skewer the show and its stars. Yet somewhere along the way, director Lietz and her talented cast of 10 forgot they’re performing a parody and not a fairly faithful recreation of the show. As such, many of the characters and the situations – including Brett Thurman’s Mike “The Situation” – were far too restrained and low key. (In the case of a parody, bigger is usually better – especially since the “Jersey Shore” cast members are already caricatures!)
Another problem at the production’s second performance was line delivery. Hailey Zureich’s Snooki was perfect – except for the lisp, which occasionally made it impossible to understand her. (Especially when she talked fast!) Also, several scenes ended with a noticeable thud, thanks to actors who delivered their lines while exiting the stage with their backs to the audience. (Their dialogue faded into the background, and I hadn’t a clue what they said!)
And with 10 actors crisscrossing the stage, some moments looked like a mob scene, which occasionally made it difficult to focus in on whichever character was speaking.
So despite a potentially funny script and very faithful character interpretations – aided and abetted by some excellent, but uncredited costume design – “Jersey Show Season 1 (Abridged)” didn’t pack the punch it COULD have. Sure, there were laughs. But the end result didn’t quite make the cultural statement I suspect its authors were trying to say!
‘Jersey Show Season 1 (Abridged)’
Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale. 8 p.m. every Thursday through Feb. 24. $10. 248-327-0575. http://www.gocomedy.net.